In such a deep draft, selecting the best play available would be the wisest player for the Nashville Predators. A player they think very highly of could fall much farther past where they have him ranked, at which point it would only make sense for them to pick him up. Even so, Poile his staff may want to keep an out for players that could potentially fill the Predators' team needs down the road.
The Preds have seven picks to continue the strong showing from last year's draft in Philadelphia. None of these players are likely to affect the team in the short term, which is why drafting for immediate needs isn't the best option. Still, by the time some of these players are ready to contribute, they could find themselves with an open position because the team foresaw an opening a few years down the line.
Offensive wingers. The biggest need over the past few seasons has been players that can bring a lot of offense to the table. General Manager David Poile has done a fantastic job of injecting offense into the organization with wingers like Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson, and Steve Moses. The latter three of those players should also help turn offense in the bottom-six from a problem to a strength.
Bottom six centers. Nashville is set with bottom six centers Calle Jarnkrok, Paul Gaustad, and (potentially) Mike Fisher. Their system is also chock full of players who could fill those positions in the future with Vladislav Kamenev (if he doesn't become a top-six center,) Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, and maybe Emil Pettersson and Felix Girard. Sissons and Watson are both looking to crack the NHL roster on a full-time basis. It's crazy to think (in both a good and a bad way) that there hasn't been any room for either of those two rookies to land a job in Nashville yet.
Defense. Defensively, the Predators don't have too much to worry about as they have five NHL defensemen every team would love to have. All of them are solid both offensively and defensively and can play in all situations.
Top-six centers. Top center depth is looking to be an even bigger problem this coming year than it was last year. Mike Fisher is likely to come back to his spot on the second line, but until the contract is dry that shouldn't be assumed. Poile has alluded to Jarnrkok being given a chance to prove he can fill one of those spots, but with only 18 points last season it seems less than likely he will prove worthy. The Predators' other options are unproven prospects like Kamanev, who probably won't see top-six minutes soon unless he sees a gigantic leap in his development.
2015 NHL Draft Targets for the Nashville Predators: The Centers
Leading up to draft day, we're looking at players that could be on the board when the Preds come calling. Today we are examining potential centers from the second round.
Given the uncertainty of whether or not the Predators' current center prospects can even be second line players, they still could be searching for a number two center in the future. Adding another center to the prospect pool would increase the odds the Predators are able to fill out their top six down the middle.
But finding a center of the caliber the Predators need is almost assuredly not going to happen in the later rounds. Most of the players in the first 15 spots may fit the "star in waiting" bill, but Nashville wont have a shot at them barring a swap for one of those picks.
To compete in the short term, this option is either going to come from within or by trade. There are several players potentially available for the right price, and the potential for a flurry of trades is certainly on the table. Does the front office want to put up players for a year of Eric Staal or Ryan O'Reilly? Maybe not, (though he did try to land Jason Spezza for a year) but Poile is never one to go with the most obvious trade route. Ask James Neal and Filip Forsberg about that.
Nashville has the ability to sacrifice some current assets to acquire talent that will help them immediately, while stocking the pipeline with players who could help in a few years.
Physicality from the defense. The Predators need a couple of physical and defensively reliable defensemen to support the more offensively gifted defensemen—most of whom do not play a heavy game—and give them more favorable zone starts. Alm and Diaby could be those guys, but they have yet to prove they can play at the NHL level. One or more physical defensive defenseman could be just what the doctor ordered.
Number one goalie. Pekka Rinne has been this team's backbone for years, but he's turning 33 this November and Juuse Saros seems to be the only viable option behind him. Saros being 5'10" really doesn't help his cause, though, even if he is one of the more highly ranked prospects in the NHL. The Predators need to give themselves as many chances as possible at a future number one goaltender. But we're not looking of getting rid of Rinne just yet.
Predicted Draft Board:
Note: This draft board is based on who the Predators could realistically be picking with the 55th overall pick and they solely include prospects listed as draft targets. It also does not include goalies because of their high variability of ranking.
1) Thomas Novak (C)
2) Alexander Dergachev (C/RW)
3) Christian Fischer (RW)
4) Vince Dunn (LD)
5) Jordan Greenway (LW)
6) Travis Dermot (LD)
7) Julius Nattinen (C)
8) Ryan Pilon (LD)
9) Denis Malgin (C)
10) Robin Kovacs (RW/LW)
What draft strategy would you like to see Poile and Co. execute? What do you think is the biggest need on Friday? What about for the future?